Sunday, April 17, 2011

Run for the Parks Four-Miler, Why Bikes Don't "Fit," and The Perils of Early Hydration

Hello, devoted readers!  Good to be back!  I've been working hard, but not blogging much (as you can tell). I will try to be better.

Triathlon training is going well.  It's still a little early to push, but I'm trying not to slack.  Liam deserves no less than my best.  And you all agree, as so far, thanks to you, I have raised
for the Aubrey Fund for Pediatric Cancer Research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center on behalf of Prince Liam the Brave.  If you, dear reader, want to support my first triathlon effort, honor the amazing Prince Liam, who fought so hard against neuroblastoma, and help cure pediatric cancer -- three things for the price of one!! -- simply click here to make a donation.  Any amount you can give is a step closer to a cure.

Thanks to Fred's Team, I have a new training program keeper thingie, called "Training Peaks." It tells you what to do every day as a beginner to prepare for your first triathlon. Some of it is a little basic, even for me, so as per usual, I've been ignoring it. If I figure out how to get it on the blog feed, I will replace good old Buckeye Outdoors. I've been trying to swim twice a week, run twice a week, and bike ... well, I'm waiting for the bike. I ordered it from Toga Bikes two weeks ago. It should be here any day now. I hate biking indoors more than I hate running on a treadmill, and I loathe running on a treadmill. 

I'm excited to get the bike, because I had so much trouble riding the old one (much as I loved it,) as it did not fit properly.  I bought that bike off Craigslist, a beautiful orange Cannondale.  Please understand that the bike I had before the Cannondale was purple, had a banana seat and purple streamers on the handlebars, and her name was Jennifer. What I knew about "fit" was -- could I get on it and reach the pedals?  Fit!  No, apparently, there is a lot more to it, like how well you reach the handlebars, where your knee falls in relation to the pedals, how wide you have to grip, etc.  I wish I had known this before.  I rode it for the better part of a year, and it was always uncomfortable.  I felt too high off the ground, and my back would be aching after two miles.  I finally asked some of my triathlete friends who said that just wasn't right.  Anyways, the good folks at Toga explained to me when I brought the Cannondale in that there would be no way to make it fit me properly, that fixing one thing would create problems with another.  So they sold the old bike, and ordered me a hot new Cannondale Synapse Women's Alloy 7 Sora.  Whatever that means.  Alls I know is, it's hot. And I want it.

Swimming, I will talk about some other day. Just hoping to survive it, for the moment. I have the form, but not the endurance.

Today's race.  Just got home from this AM's Run for the Parks four-miler.  I was not signed up to do this race, but my friend David left me a message last night wondering if I was going.  I decided to let the fates decide.  If I woke up in time to get to the race to sign up by 7:30, I would.  Spot woke me up barfing at 5am, so I went.

Got there just before 7:00 to register and get my race number.  Then I had to sit around for close to an hour.  I knew some of my Teammates were going to be there, but I didn't see any of them. My plan was to hydrate well prior to the race, since it was a four-miler, I didn't feel it necessary to take a water stop unless I felt I needed to.  So before I left the house, I had a Nuun (my new favorite pre-run drink of choice -- it's an electrolyte tablet that dissolves in water.) I also had coffee when I woke up.  And when I got to the bandshell to register, turns out that one of the race sponsors was Zico coconut water, so I got a bottle of that.  I bided my pre-race time by going to the bathroom.  A lot.  Those of you who have actually read this blog know that I am obsessed with the amount of times I can go to the bathroom before the marathon (7 is the number to beat)  but for a four-mile race -- three times.  In under an hour. 

And then it's 7:50 and I head to the corral, and wouldn't you know it -- have to go again! What the --?   Well, I figured it would add to my urgency.

And...we're off!

I'm in the pink corral, which is more towards the back.  It was actually a good one to be in, so that I would start slow.  The course is the four-mile inside loop of Central Park, from E. 68th up to the 102nd Street transverse, over and back down the west side, finishing at the 72nd Street transverse.  This means that mile 1 has Cat Hill, which is the biggest hill, getting it over with early.  On Wednesday, I did my first set of hill repeats in a year, so I was prepared to just head up this bad boy once.  Mile 1, mostly uphill -- 9:30.  I was surprised, I thought I was going slower than that. 

Mile 2, mostly downhill, and I'm finding my pace  (and I have to peeeeee!) was another surprise -- 9:00.  What?  Didn't feel it.  But I knew mile 3 was hillier, so I wanted to take mile 3 a little slower, to give me juice for mile 4. 

For thems who don't run, there is a concept called the negative split that I ascribe to, where the second half of the race is run faster than the first half.  The theory is, instead of getting all the speed out early and hanging in there for the last part of the race, you start slow and speed up, leaving something in the tank for a push at the end and a strong finish.  That's why, a lot of times, big races like the marathon come down to the last mile, or even half mile, or even 10 feet.  The runners hold something back for the push at the end.  The question is, when is it going to come, and how long can the runner sustain it?

My issue isn't the slow first half, it's the not speeding up in the second half.  But I digress...

Mile 3, a hillier mile -- and the one that has, for some reason, the toughest hill, which is the one right by the ballfields in the West 90s.  Don't know why I find it harder than Cat Hill, which is a steeper hill and a longer one, but there you have it.  9:10 for mile 3.

Last mile, mostly downhill, and here's where the problem with being a slower runner is -- you're surrounded by slower runners.  So I want to go pedal to the medal, but I keep getting caught behind packs of slower people, and having to maneuver around them.  It's funny, I know this course like the back of my hand, but I never know when to start pushing.  I push a little harder, but make my move at 79th Street.  I open up my stride and really start to motor (at least for me, anyway).

Turned off my watch just  before hitting the finish line, but I looked down and saw this:
WHAAAA?  Wow. For some, a bad day at the office.  For me, everything just came up roses. 

My actual time was 36:08, and that last mile was more like an 8:20ish, but still, that is my fastest time for a mile since last year, maybe more. 

What does this mean?  Two things.  One -- if I can stay injury-free and train smart, this is going to be a great year.

And two -- I need to learn how to better pace the middle miles of a race.  If I have that much gas in the tank that I am able to hit that pace at the end, I need to use up a little more of that in the middle, and not be afraid of maintaining a faster pace over a longer distance.

So I'm off to the pool now for a swim.  Please donate to Fred's Team by clicking here, and good luck, Boston runners!! 

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